New ‘farm bot’ at high school to develop life skills

New ‘farm bot’ at high school to develop life skills
Photo courtesy of Debora Cahan. Members of the Granville Future Farmers of America group sit outside. Many of these students enjoy Debora Cahan and Catlin Goodwin's Ag classes where they get to learn about farming, food science, animal science and much more.

Continuing to place a heavy emphasis on educating and informing young people on their options post-high school, two Granville Ag teachers recently received a grant through the Future Farmers of America (FFA) to purchase advanced educational equipment.

Debora Cahan and Catlin Goodwin were able to secure a $4,900 “Grants for Growing” grant, sponsored by Tractor Supply, that will go toward the purchase of a “Farm Bot,” all of the supplies required for its installation and a camera system for both staff and students to observe the mechanical instrument’s perspective.

“The ‘farm bot’ is a robot that’s on tracks that sits on a raised bed,” Goodwin said. “So you have a raised farm bed, put the tracks on top and the ‘farm bot’ goes back and forth. It’s programmed, and the students assemble and program the robot to do a ton of different actions. So they can program it to water, to plant, to weed, to fertilize, to harvest.”

Down the road, the utilization and implementation of modern equipment may lead to the potential of using the “farm bot” in the Junior/Senior High School cafeteria to serve farm-to-table meals.

“We would love to grow food for the cafeteria,” Cahan said.

The high school’s VEX robotics club also will be highly involved in programming the robot, making it a joint project. Cahan and Goodwin were informed the “farm bot” will be shipped in December of this year.

“We’re hoping to implement here, for many reasons, obviously, (projects) that cross over with all of the interdisciplinary stuff,” Cahan said. “But also, now that we’re in the back corner of the school, it’s nice to have things up in the front. So we want to be able to showcase the things that we do and what the students learn.”

Cahan and Goodwin pointed out that the majority of activities and equipment the Ag program receives through grants is not through the district, thus not costing taxpayers any money and creating more “unique” opportunities for funding.

Photo courtesy of Debora Cahan, Students getting hands-on experience with a digital incubator.

Although students have the opportunity to learn about the history of farming and agriculture in the area, modern-day advances have allowed the duo to teach students the benefits of robotic milkers for cows, digital incubators for chicks and the science behind precision agriculture.

Over the past three years at Granville, Cahan and Goodwin have shown young adults where their food comes from and introduced interchangeable skills that cannot be replaced. According to the two passionate teachers, students enjoy operating a mock veterinarian’s office and pet store to provide “real-world experiences” based on a student’s interests.

“I want to prepare kids for life,” Cahan said. “It’s the transferable things that we teach here that are going to leave the biggest impact.”

“I teach a lot of the food science and animal science classes, and even if students don’t have a career in food agriculture, they are still consumers,” Goodwin said. “They still go to the grocery store and they make decisions. They still interact and go to Van Riper’s or Mandy’s (Spring) and they buy their plants that they then landscape their homes with. Then they have to have some sort of knowledge or understanding of the electrical circuits that are in their home and how to service their hot-water heater. Those are all things that people, regardless of what your career is, you need to know how to do.”

Both teachers would like to see an increase in communication and awareness brought to the Ag program, with agriculture being the number-one market for jobs in Washington County.

“We want to have those connections with community members,” Goodwin said.

The Ag program’s work can be viewed on its Facebook or Twitter pages GranvilleFFA.